Monday, September 6, 2010
In the wake of the quake
After Christchurch, and the entire country, was shaken by that 7.1 magnitude earthquake on Saturday morning, it would feel wrong to blog about anything else. The regular bloggers on Stuff.co.nz apparently felt the same way - abandoning their usual topics of video games and movie reviews to chime in on how the natural disaster personally affected them. While the television news replayed the same few interviews on repeat, the blogosphere tapped into a wider range of quake experiences. Movie reviewer Margaret Agnew likened it to living through a disaster movie, and described how her maternal instinct saw her running to her son's bedroom before she was even fully conscious. Another blogger, Moata, was pleased to receive a comforting hug from John Campbell when she came across him while rubber-necking the damage in town. And a games reviewer predictably described their experience 'like something out of a video game'.
There's something about a natural disaster that turns us all into journalists. Amateur photogs were sending in their snaps and video-phone footage into news outlets at such a rate that Vodafone had to ask them to stop for fear of overloading the network. I definitely wasn't the only one conducting text interviews with Cantabrian friends, and I kept the news on all day, for fear of missing any exciting updates. As a Wellingtonian, I've been trained since preschool to be ready for a quake like this. So I almost feel guilty that Wellington has gotten off scot-free with this latest quake. Christchurch residents, in their brick houses, just weren't expecting their world to be so rudely shaken up.
The effects of the earthquake have been surprisingly far-reaching; beyond the expected uninhabitable buildings, and water and power shortages. After the intial influx of quake-injured patients to hospitals, the next round of patients have been gastroenteritis cases, from exposure to unsafe drinking water.
Domestic abuse callouts increased during the period following the quake, giving new meaning to 'broken homes'.
Wellington's Rimutaka prison has swelled, with Canterbury prisoners shipped to the capital after their prison was damaged.
Earthquake survival kits are being snapped up around the country; nowhere more than in Wellington (where we should theoretically already be prepared).
Sales on Trademe have popped up for quake rubble and chunks of tarmac - though some sellers are redeeming themselves by donating the proceeds to the Red Cross.
Apart from the scenes of damage and disrepair, the images coming out of Christchurch after the quake have overwhelmingly been of humanity doing the right thing. My favourite scene was of a group of student volunteers cleaning silt from an affected street. Most of the time we see students on the news because they're getting drunk or protesting about something. It was refreshing to see them earnestly putting their youthful energy to good use. As the University of Canterbury enters its second week of postponed classes, students will have plenty of energy to spare.